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Google, Facebook battle for friends

By Laurie Bennett

October 31, 2007 at 9:30am

Despite losing to Microsoft in its bid for a piece of Facebook, Google isn’t giving up on social networks.

The behemoth of search is partnering with other tech companies and social networks to develop a competing approach called OpenSocial. The open-source technology will enable developers to write applications that can be used on many sites, including partners in the project, such as LinkedIn and Friendster.

This is a markedly different approach from that of Facebook, which does not share its technology with others.

With 50 million users, a $240 million investment by Microsoft and a valuation of $15 billion, Facebook has a big head start. But the open-source approach has been proved over and over on the web. And then, of course, there’s the seemingly unlimited force of Google.

A number of major players have been in both camps. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested in both Facebook and LinkedIn. Napster co-founder Sean Parker was both the founding president of Facebook and a co-founder of Plaxo, which is a partner in OpenSocial.

Thiel and Parker are not the only web kingpins in this fray. Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen is involved in two OpenSocial partners - LinkedIn and Ning.

With such a stellar cast, it’s going to be quite the show: Facebook and Microsoft and the millions of users who don’t want to sacrifice the time they’ve spent building their Facebook pages vs. Google and Oracle and uncounted developers and publishers who will embrace open source.

We’re in for a real spectacle.

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